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Preview: Sundowns host Zamalek with one eye on semifinal spot
Sundowns and Zamalek face in their penultimate game of the group phase as the home team can guarantee top spot with a win, while Zamalek can have one foot in the semifinals with a win.
Date: Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 at 7:30 PM (GMT +2)
Competition: CAF Champions League, Group B
Stadium: Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium, Pretoria, South Africa.
Petrosport Stadium Recap:
On match day three, Mamelodi Sundowns became one of the few teams in Africa to record an away win against Zamalek in the CAF Champions League. With that win, Sundowns now need one more point from the coming two games two guarantee a spot in the CAF Champions League’s last four.
Zamalek had an average performance at home as they suffered a blow after losing 1-2 to Sundowns. This defeat now makes Mohamed Helmy’s reign turn sour as his side have only won one match from their last five games and are struggling for goals.
Mohamed Ibrahim’s absence:
Zamalek will be going for a win in Pretoria without their captain Mohamed Ibrahim. The midfielder is confirmed out for three months. Even with this setback, the headache for Helmy will be in terms of personnel. Will he choose to start Marouf Youssef for defensive cover or slot in Mostafa Fathi in place of his injured star? Youssef featured and scored the winner in Zamalek’s last visit to South Africa. The Nigerian powerhouse also came on for Shikabala in the first leg.
Since Zamalek will be under pressure to return home with a positive result from South Africa; Mostafa Fathi is expected to start. It’s no surprise that Sundowns coach, Pitso Mosimane, singled him out before the teams’ meeting two weeks ago, due to his trickery, pace, and ability to create chances.
Mamelodi Sundowns, on the other hand, have settled in their 4-4-2 system for continental matches. This formation which finally gave them an away win in Africa, not counting the win against the disqualified ES Setif, has seen them maintain a perfect record in home fixtures. The South African outfit will certainly be favorites to clinch a spot in the semifinals. Preparations for this game are expected to be much more seamless, for Sundowns, compared to the injury scares that distracted them ahead of the Cairo trip.
Pitso Mosimane is a confident coach and he has managed to channel his confidence to his players. Even so, the South Africans will fall for the temptation of defending a favorable position. They are so close to the semifinals of the CAF Champions League.
Zamalek had a conservative midfield in Nigeria thus Helmy’s mind will be in similar terrain. Anything but a close contest, that ends in a draw, at Lucas Moripe stadium will be a surprise; much like Egypt’s CAF Champions League campaigns this year.